Chronological / Destinations / Hotels & Resorts / New Jersey / United States

The White Lilac Inn: A Romantic and Peaceful Getaway to the Jersey Shore

Nestled on a quiet corner, in the Jersey Shore Township of Spring Lake, New Jersey, sits a lovely and quaint Bed and Breakfast known as the White Lilac Inn.

The White Lilac Inn is nestled on a quiet corner in the Jersey Shore Township of Spring Lake, New Jersey.
The White Lilac Inn is nestled on a quiet corner in the Jersey Shore Township of Spring Lake, New Jersey

One of the crown jewels of Spring Lake’s Historic Inns, the White Lilac’s 127-year history is as colorful as its décor and surrounding foliage. This magnificent three-story country Victorian was built in 1880 as a summer cottage for a family from Philadelphia. It later became “The Rainbow Cottage” in 1918, named for its owners John and Lillian Rainbow who opened the doors to the public. There were other owners, but the longest was Sally Mann Randock who lived there for 18 years, sold it only to buy it back again two years later with her second husband, Neil G. Francis, calling it the “Francis House” Sally Mann Randock Francis stayed another 22 years. Interestingly, the deed appears as though it had another owner, but Francis had divorced and remarried during her ownership. Another interesting tidbit, the Ziegfield girls were friends with Francis and often stayed at the cottage during that era. Mrs. Bernice O’Burke, the first owner from Monmouth County, New Jersey, arrived in 1964 and called the Inn “The Bonnie Brae House” after her granddaughter, Bonnie Brae Burke.

The current and 13th owner, Mari Kennelly, purchased the Inn in 1994 and lovingly restored it as a historic Bed and Breakfast Inn, which opened in 1995. She closely guards an array of historic artifacts, including every deed to the property, and even the building’s original blue print.

The Inn has eight guest rooms and one suite. Each air conditioned room is decorated with an historical theme, which allows The White Lilac to continue its heritage of Southern Hospitality. Like the finer Victorians of this era, the rooms feature a private balcony, fireplace, and wrap-around porches. Modern touches such as double whirlpool tubs have also been added for additional guest comfort. The walls are adorned with striking works of art and photographs as well as antique knick knacks and articles from eclectic Victorian style. For those of us who cannot fully escape reality and temporarily retire to a simpler time, the Inn is also equipped with WiFi Internet access.

The White Lilac also features a beautifully decorated and spacious parlor where guests can relax in comfort or visit with their friends and other guests. The library is always open to guests and displays hundreds of books and videos to use at your leisure.

Guests will enjoy a delicious breakfast either in the enclosed sunny porch or in the Garden Room. Either way, the surroundings are clean, airy and warmly inviting. Coffee, tea, refreshments and snacks are available to guests throughout the day, and they are welcome to help themselves, if they like. Kennelly serves a delicious breakfast which may consist of anything from homemade Peach French Toast with syrup and bacon or sausage to assorted seasonal fruit such as melons and strawberries, pastries and cakes and fresh yogurt. The menu is open to a variety of custom and traditional needs, but the focus is homemade comfort foods that make her guests feel at home with healthy and delicious choices.

Kennelly, who is a real people person with infectious enthusiasm, is happy to chat with her guests and makes sure to let them know about events going on around town that they may wish to attend. She is always ready with travel directions, as well. She is very knowledgeable and enjoys sharing some of the history of the Inn and of Spring Lake. Oftentimes, her guests had previously been to or lived in Spring Lake or visited over the years, and like to reminisce about the past; she updates them on changes in the town and area. I actually met a woman, relaxing with her husband at breakfast, who was related to the owner of a long-time pizza place that I frequented in New York during my youth. We had a fun chat about that area and the places we similarly remembered.

Nearby the Inn, guests can enjoy many activities such as swimming, boating, cycling, antiquing, golf and tennis or they can give up the hectic pace for quiet moments with a stroll along the boardwalk, around the town or visiting beautiful St. Catharine’s Church in the center of town, which is a replica of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.

There is a huge assortment of quaint shops and tantalizing restaurants in town that residents and guests can walk to, such as the Black Trumpet on Atlantic Avenue which features fresh and delicious seafood caught on the Jersey Shore, original pasta plates, and a wide assortment of signature delicacies and desserts.

For the convenience of guests, the Inn offers off-street parking and is a stone’s throw from Wreck Pond and 4 1/2 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. Spring Lake is on the Jersey Shore, about 60 miles south of New York City and about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

There are many annual events in Spring Lake including the Spring Lake Candlelight Christmas Inn Tour, which Kennelly is chairing this year, being held on December 1, 2007 from 3:30 to 7:00 p.m. All the historic inns will be decorated for Christmas. In previous years, the White Lilac Inn has been decorated in themes such as carousel, riverboat, Christmas in New Orleans, and in 2006, Alice in Wonderland with the huge tree decorated in teacups. This year’s theme will be announced soon.

Other events you should make note to attend are the Historical Society Home Tours on June 7, and the Authors and Inns Tour on June 10 which will feature Gordon Hesse who authored “All Summer Long Memoirs – Lifeguards at the Jersey Shore.” Hesse will be at the White Lilac Inn meeting the public and autographing books.

Room rates are seasonal as follows: during mid season (May, June & September) prices range from $179 – $329; high season (July & August) prices range from $219 – $359; and quiet season (October – April) prices range from $139 – $259.

The White Lilac Inn is located at 414 Central Avenue, Spring Lake, New Jersey, 07762, USA. You may reach them by phone at 732-449-0211. For additional information, you may also visit their web site at

The White Lilac Inn: A Romantic and Peaceful Getaway to the Jersey Shore Patty Anis April 2007


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